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How parents of children under 5 can move as they await approval of COVID vaccine

While vaccines for adults have been available for more than year, it's easy to forget about families still dealing with daycare or preschool quarantines.

CLEVELAND — While much of the world has normalized, parents of kids under 5 have often felt left behind -- grappling with how to protect their kids who were too young to be vaccinated or even mask up.

We first met Carly Henry and her son Jude during the Omicron surge back in January. Fast forward to late April, and she's encouraged by the news that a coronavirus vaccine for children six months to five years old could be finally weeks away as Moderna asks for FDA approval. “I'll feel really good knowing that I've offered him as much protection as I can once a vaccine is available for him,” she said.

Two-year-old Jude's whole life has been the pandemic. And while the Henrys have kept going, they look forward to traveling and other risks they've tried to avoid.

“I'm hoping that this is, you know, this is it. And if not Moderna, Pfizer…whoever, we don't discriminate, but we just want it approved and safe and make sure it's effective,” said Henry.

While vaccines for adults have been available for more than year, it's easy to forget about families still dealing with daycare or preschool quarantines, making tough choices.

“It’s, ‘What about us?’ You know, we have the little kids with all of their germs and viruses on any given day, in daycares or nurseries. And we're making these hard decisions,” said Dr. Laura Gerak, the clinical director of psychology at Akron Children's Hospital. “As a parent, you, you just feel such guilt, like making the right decision is huge.”

The good news, Dr. Gerak says, is early research shows masking is not developmentally disruptive. “What is hard for them is the isolation and not being social,” she said.

To that end, acknowledging the risk and taking small safe, steps to allow kids to be kids, and spend time with others, is beneficial.

“To say, yes, you know, we were protective when we needed to be, and we're going to take baby steps back to all the things, that will be the risks as a parent that you're having to take a deep breath about,” said Gerak.

Like in every other age group, there's a wide spectrum of how young families have addressed their risks around the coronavirus. Dr. Gerak says to avoid isolation, find a small group you feel comfortable with, and acknowledge some of this anxiety is normal.

With the weather turning, she suggests getting outside, as most kids don't get enough of that either. “I feel hopeful now that, you know, things will be getting better,” said Henry. “Maybe that's the weather, maybe that's the, you know, knowing that there is a vaccine on the horizon…I hope we can put it behind us.”

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